How to start your own catering business

If you’ve ever entertained people with your culinary skills, presented smartly and efficiently to friends or family, then you may also have considered making a living from it!

The wonderful world of catering has opened up opportunities for anyone to create a menu boasting anything from canapés to cocktails and sandwiches to sausage rolls. It’s also a career where life experience and a love for good food and restaurants, two things we surely all have, can fill in the gaps that a lack of business knowledge can create.

There’s a lot of groundwork to be done before you can even think of turning on the oven, and many questions to answer. Where will your premises be based? How will you manage your food safely? How many staff will you need? And what food will you prepare?

Getting Started

Let’s say you’ve assembled a basic menu, or at least a style of menu. You’ve identified a gap in the market after networking, and discovered a few provisional customers. The options are numerous, but it would be best to establish a niche or a particular trend such as Vietnamese or Thai. this will help crystallise the equipment, expertise and training you’ll need - you can always diversify further along the process.

The Menu

The menu should be straightforward - it might even be worth holding a taster session to decide what works well and what doesn’t, and ask for honest, constructive feedback. You’ll need to think about branding and marketing because your name and ethos can make or break your chances of success.

The market you decide to pinpoint (healthy, American style, Eastern European, etc.) is up to you, but make sure it’s based on experience and passion for that specific cuisine, rather than one you think is most profitable.


Will you run the business from a van, from your own kitchen, from mobile premises, or from pre-existing kitchens? Costs will vary and you should investigate the advantages and disadvantages of each; there’s a high probability you’ll have to get planning permission if you want to change the use of a building, for example.


If you need to borrow money then put together a financial plan and be realistic. A bank will want to see a strong credit rating, a business background that shows reliability, a summary of the business and research, and well-structured, logical projections – you must be well-organized if you plan to take this route. If the bank won’t play ball, then consider some 21st century solutions such as crowdfunding and social media.

At the same time, networking and speaking to venture capitalists and even potential rivals (perhaps in other cities) will pay dividends. It’s also worth investigating if you can take over a franchise, which will clear a lot of the legwork for you.

Health & Safety

Your business will live and die by the quality and safety of your food. Low prices might derail your hopes, but low-quality, unsafe food will completely destroy it. All food should be safe to eat, clearly and correctly labelled or described on a menu with records on site of its origin.

Another part of handling food is the hygiene of our hands; soaps, sanitisers, and gloves from a company such as Brosch Direct are vital. Consider buying these products in bulk in order to save both time and money.

There are a few more steps to consider before opening:

  • Does the restaurant’s décor match the style of food?

  • Who are your waiters and waitresses?

  • When will you set up your website and social media accounts, and how often will you update? What hours will you open?

  • Can you tie your restaurant to other businesses such as local pubs and wedding –oriented sellers?

Plenty of hard work lies ahead. Sleepless nights and a steep learning curve of what works and what doesn’t are inevitable. However, the thought of people both paying for and savouring your cuisine will be its own reward. As successful caterer Vivi Griffin said: “I know that owning my own catering company is a yearning that won’t go away. I just love the final product and watching people enjoying my food.”

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